Just in time for Valentine’s Day, here’s a post about love! Is “love” the only rule of conduct for Christians? How do we define love? How do we practice love? To answer these common questions, we must turn to Scripture. In response to claims that God only commands love, Gordon H. Clark writes:
Theology is the crux of the matter, for ethics depends on theology. Instead of a God who gives moral laws, [Dr. Joseph] Fletcher [, Professor of Social Ethics in the Episcopal Theological School at Cambridge, Massachusetts] acknowledges a god who commands nothing but love. Now, one can wax eloquent and plausible about love. One can even sound devout and Christian, but if we are logical and rational, we must analyze the position to see exactly what it means.
It is not clear that Fletcher knows what he means by love. He quotes Tillich that the law of love is the ultimate law because it is the negation of law. But his paradoxical statement contains no positive information. Fletcher tells us also that “Christian love is not desire… it is an attitude.” But this statement too is negative and devoid of specific information. Later he says that love and justice are the same. “Justice,” he says, “is Christian love using its head, calculating its duties.” But Fletcher does not tell us what justice is or how we are to use our heads. Beyond this, Fletcher makes several other statments about love. But even if some of them should happen to be true, none of them shows how love can justify any action, even any good action, let alone disobedience to God.
The point I wish to make is not merely that love all by itself does not justify murder, theft, and perjury. The important point is that love all by itself does not justify any action. Morality cannot be based on love alone because love alone gives no guidance whatever. As a quotation a moment ago showed, the Scriptures may require us to love God but how we are to love God is spelled out in detail: “If ye love me, keep my commandments.” Without the specific and detailed instruction of the commandments we could never know how to express our love for God.
The fact is, Fletcher has trouble even with the command to love. When he rejects “all revealed norms or laws but the one commandment to love God in the neighbor,” he misquotes the commandment he refers to and omits the one on which it depends, namely, “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.” Now a man doesn’t have to be a Christian. A man may adopt any principles he pleases if he can rationally defend them. But what kind of a Christian is it that accepts a garbled Second Commandment while rejecting the First from the same authority?
You can read the rest of this lecture, “The Puritans and Situation Ethics,” here.
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